School Transformation Double Talk Threatens Students and Teachers

Reposted with permission from Nancy Bailey’s Education Website.

college ready

Empowered is a popular word. But in North Dakota they are handing schools over to Knowledgeworks, a foundation that will convert schools to technology.  The only way teachers will be empowered is if they sign on to Knowledgeworks!

It’s easy to be confused by what is said about schools today. We are told one thing, when quite the opposite is taking place.

We are told that with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), education will involve local decision making. Simultaneously, the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation is giving $44 million to affect state school decisions.

A citizen may have suggestions for their local school board, but who’s going to listen when that school district is taking money and doing what the Gates Foundation wants them to do?

Another example is North Dakota. Superintendent Kirsten Baesler did a podcast six months ago discussing “innovation” and “customization” of learning. She was trying to get teachers and citizens to support ND 2186, a bill that passed there to transform schools to technology.

The discussion involves double talk. These same buzz words and claims can be found in school districts across the country.

Claim: Teachers will be “empowered.”

The Reality:

Empowered is a popular word. But in North Dakota they are handing schools over to Knowledgeworks, a foundation that will convert schools to technology.

The only way teachers will be empowered is if they sign on to Knowledgeworks!

Claim: We are moving away from No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

The Reality:

NCLB was all about destroying public schools with strict accountability.

Total technology without teachers is the NCLB frosting on the cake!

Claim: Teacher creativity is important.


The State of North Dakota has partnered with Ted Dintersmith, who wrote a book about what schools should be like. But he is not an educator.

Ted’s professional experience includes two decades in venture capital, including being ranked by Business 2.0 as the top-performing U.S. venture capitalist for 1995-1999. He served on the Board of the National Venture Capital Association, chairing its Public Policy Committee. From 1981 to 1987, he ran a business at Analog Devices that helped enable the digital revolution.

Where’s the teacher creativity in this?

Dintersmith uses the same line as Betsy DeVos and other corporate school reformers. In a Forbes interview he says, Schools still use a 125-year-old model, put in place to train people for industrial jobs, which lives with us to this day. 

He has also worked with Tony Wagner who once worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Claim: Customized learning is innovation.


Customized learning is also called personalized, competency-based, proficiency-based, digital, and online learning. It means children will rely on screens for instruction and nonstop testing. Much data will be collected about them.

Teachers will become secondary to the computer as facilitators, or they could be out of a job.

Brick-and-mortar schools are also jeopardized. Students might learn at home or in libraries, museums, or charter schools.

Claim: Teachers will get authority because they are trusted.


If this is true, why has North Dakota partnered with Dintersmith, and turned schools over to Knowledgeworks? Are teachers being used to spread the customized learning message? Will their jobs be intact in a few years?

Claim: Loosening regulations and laws will help students.


This is dangerous. We hear it echoed by Betsy DeVos. Think about laws that protect students.

For example, if it weren’t for IDEA,  schools would not have to work with students with disabilities.

Other federal laws include Section 504, FERPA, and Protection of Pupil Rights.

North Dakota State laws can be found here. 

ND 2186 permits these changes, found on the Knowledgeworks website.

  • Awarding credit for learning that takes place outside normal school hours
  • Awarding credit for learning that takes place away from school premises
  • Allowing flexibility regarding instructional hours, school days, and school years
  • Allowing any other appropriate flexibility necessary to implement the pilot program effectively

How will we know what students learn? You can see here how brick-and-mortar schools could be on their way out.

Claim: We are doing what’s right for children.

Reality: There is no proof that this is true. An OECD study in 2015 found that students did better with less technology!


This is just some of the double talk out there. Check out my list of state superintendents and compare what they say with other state leaders.

Tune in to the language. It isn’t always what it seems.

Note. Knowledgeworks will be working with North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina (and Indiana?). Will they be coming to your state?

All of the changes in North Dakota were across party lines.


Here is a well-researched and more detailed explanation of North Dakota’s situation. “They’ve Got Trouble, up there in North Dakota.” Wrench in the Gears.  

-Nancy Bailey


Betsy DeVos: Best Villain EVER & Big Fan of the Swiss Model of Youth Apprenticeships & Career Connected Learning. Wait, What?


The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp. -George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-four

No one makes a better villain than Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. She’s the enemy of public education that everyone – on a divided left  – can agree to hate.

DeVos is our very own Emmanuel Goldstein, great uniter of the democratic party and designated enemy; who continues to bring all of us together in our updated – dare I say innovative – version of Orwellian inspired two minutes of hate.

Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury

Since DeVos is the agreed upon villain and one woman wrecking ball of public education, it may come as a huge shock to people who view themselves as democrats that “the evil one” is a big supporter of the Swiss Model of youth apprenticeships and career connected learning.

Here’s a portion of her prepared remarks from June 7, 2018 before the International Congress on Vocational & Professional Training:

While I’m here in Switzerland I will meet with students, educators and business leaders to learn more about education in this country. I look forward to seeing first-hand how Swiss students pursue their passions through many different technical and vocational courses and in apprenticeship programs.

The Swiss approach is one from which we can all learn a great deal. It is so interesting that more than two-thirds of current students pursue their education through apprenticeships.

Of course apprenticeships include those for welders and carpenters – which, in my country, is more common. But apprenticeships here include many options in every sector of the economy, including healthcare, finance and law. I was so intrigued to learn from Switzerland’s Ambassador to the U.S. Martin Dahinden that the CEO of UBS, Sergio Ermotti, started his career as an apprentice. And Lukas Gähwiler, Chairman of UBS, Switzerland also started out his career as an apprentice. That’s not commonplace in America, but perhaps it should be!

President Donald Trump has made apprenticeship expansion a priority. He established a national Task Force on Apprenticeships, chaired by Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta and co-chaired by Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and myself. We were joined by leaders from business, labor and education. Our charge was to explore ways to empower Americans with options to earn and learn. And ways to encourage the private sector and higher education to advance this important opportunity for our nation’s economic future.

There are many avenues to earn what individual students want and what employers need: industry-recognized certificates, two-year degrees, stackable credits, credentials, licenses, advanced degrees, badges, four-year degrees, micro-degrees, apprenticeships and so on.

All of these are valid pursuits. Each should be embraced as such. If it’s the right fit for the student, then it’s the right education. And importantly, no stigma should stand in the way of a student’s journey to success.

Proper credentials send important signals to employers. The question is whether those credentials match what employers need – and what employers think those signals mean.

Think about it this way: students seek out a credential – a bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree, an advanced degree – because they think it will send a signal to employers that they are employable. But too often what they learn while earning that credential isn’t what they need to do the work they are hired to do.

The Swiss approach addresses that. Employers and educators work hand-in-hand to line up the skills required with those actually learned. It’s a bottom-up, self-defined solution. And it’s a solution we must better emulate in my country.

Additionally, the notion that education begins at age five and ends at age twenty-two must be retired. That posture suggests that education is merely transactional, with a finite beginning and end. But learning has no finish line.

Today’s students need something drastically different, something significantly better than what my own experience was. They need learning environments that are agile, relevant, exciting. Students need customized, self-paced, and challenging life-long learning journeys.

Let’s see, DeVos mentions: industry-recognized certificates, stackable credits and credentials, badges, micro-degrees, and apprenticeships, all of which – in my mind, add up to a nationwide K-12 badging program.

This is a dream come true for the Chamber of Commerce, business leaders, and social impact investors who are keen to limit public education to workforce development devoid of any time wasted on extraneous knowledge not directly beneficial to capital and the bottom line.

Really, if DeVos hadn’t mentioned Trump, her prepared remarks would be hard to distinguish from something Suzi LeVine, Washington State’s newly appointed Commissioner of the State’s Employment Security Department, would have delivered in a speech.

Who’s Suzi LeVine? You can learn more about her by reading Kids, Welcome to the Machine: Suzi Levine & Career Connected Learning.

So, this is a little awkward. Betsy DeVos  – the agreed upon enemy of public education- also endorsing the democrat approved initiative of career connected learning and youth apprenticeships.

Maybe the destruction of public education is a more bipartisan affair than our thought leaders would have us believe.

-Carolyn Leith


A fine Northwest welcome was provided for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos

DeVos Nebraska


In a previous post, we published a letter to Betsy DeVos written by Jesse Hagopian regarding the Secretary’s appearance in Bellevue, Washington hosted by the right wing think tank the Washington Policy Center.

To provide context for those who are not familiar with the Puget Sound area, Bellevue is across the bridge from Seattle and basically a suburb of Seattle.

As with the reception Seattle provided Michelle Rhee a few years ago, a Northwest style welcome was also given to Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

Because a video is worth, I don’t know, a 5,000 words, I thought it best to provide the following clips:



Dora Taylor








Betsy DeVos’ Education Tax Credits Will Take Money Away from the States


This article was originally posted on The Progressive and titled:

Four Things Betsy DeVos Doesn’t Want You to Know about Education Tax Credits

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a big fan of educational tax credits.  In a speech at the American Federation of Children’s Policy Summit on May 22, she showcased Denisha Merriweather, who used a tax-credit scholarship to attend a church-affiliated private school in Florida. (The American Federation for Children,  a group that pushes school privatization, is a group created by Betsy DeVos and her husband Dick.)

Merriweather is the same student President Trump introduced during his address to the Joint Session of Congress when he promoted “school choice”for students in public schools.

The DeVoses, through the American Federation for Children, also happen to be major contributors to the American Legislative Exchange Council, which drafts corporate-friendly model legislation for Republican state lawmakers. ALEC wrote model legislation titled The Great Schools Tax Credit Program Act.

Education tax credits are similar to school vouchers. A voucher is money paid by the state to cover private school tuition for a student. Voucher money comes straight out of public school funds.

Vouchers are unconstitutional in eighteen states and one of the reasons is that the money can go to a religious school, crossing the line between church and state.

School vouchers have also yielded poor results. Research shows that low-income voucher students take losses academically and most don’t recover over a two-year period.

In a “scholarship tax credit program,” the money bypasses the state and instead goes through a go-between, a “scholarship granting organization” to a private school to pay a student’s tuition in full or in part. Typically, these organizations keep 10 percent of the money as they pass through funds to private schools.

A scholarship granting organization distributes money to students, who are purportedly “low income”, to attend a private school the organization has selected to include in its portfolio. Granting organizations can select the schools they do business with, whether they are religious schools or schools that are unaccredited.

While these groups have set a standard for “low income” —a family of four with an income of $64,750 or less—family income is not a determining factor for many of the students who receive the scholarships.

Here are four things you need to know as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos seeks to establish an education tax credit system for the entire nation:

#1 Education tax credit programs deplete state budgets

According to a report issued by the School Superintendents Association and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy titled Public Loss, Private Gain: How School Voucher Tax Shelters Undermine Public Education, “Seventeen states currently divert a total of over $1 billion per year toward private schools via tax credits.”

Those tax credits deplete states and the Federal government of tax revenue and fill the coffers of private enterprises including religious schools, corporations and wealthy individuals.

As an example, the school-voucher expansion in Arizona could cost the state $24 million a year or more and $140 million is now being diverted from the state treasury to pay private-school tuition for students of any income bracket through a tax credit program. Senate Majority Leader Steve Yarbrough from Arizona has pocketed quite a bit of cash with his Yarbrough’s Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization which has profited to the tune of $116 million via individual tax-credit donations since 1998. Senator Yarborough pays himself, as executive director, $125,000 a year

Alabama set aside $40 million to absorb the loss from tax credits. Indiana’s Center for Tax and Budget Accountability did an Analysis of Indiana School Choice Scholarship Program and concluded that the voucher programs did not achieve its goal of a higher level of academic achievement and the state lost millions in tax revenues due to the state tax credit scholarship program.

According to the Network for Public Education, “Some private schools have received as much as $18,000 per scholarship. Parents can get multiple scholarships for a child from multiple tuition organizations – something the state doesn’t even bother to track”.

#2 Education tax credit programs benefit the wealthy

Usually, when an individual makes a donation to a non-profit, she takes a 30 to 40 percent tax write-off. The education tax credit provides 100 percent-plus in write-offs, making it more attractive to wealthy individuals and corporations.

The tax credit can be used as a dollar-per-dollar write off on Federal taxes and, in some states, it can be used as an additional write-off on state taxes. With a donation to a scholarship grant-making organization, a person, company or corporation can benefit financially, sometimes doubling the tax write-off. The states that allow this double-dipping are Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia.

For the past three years, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Representative Todd Rokita of Indiana have introduced legislation that would create a federal tuition tax credit program called the Educational Opportunities Act (EOA). The two states they represent have tax credit programs that have been profitable to wealthy donors, scholarship grant-making organizations, and private schools.

The tax credit program has become so popular with the wealthy in those states that, according to the report Public Loss, Private Gain“the entire allotment of available credits is often claimed just hours after state tax officials begin accepting applications. In Georgia, the state’s entire allotment of $58 million in tuition tax credits was claimed in a single day on January 3, 2017. A few months earlier, the same occurred within a matter of hours with regard to $67 million of credits in Arizona and $763,550 in credits in Rhode Island…a journalist in South Carolina estimated that one savvy, anonymous taxpayer was able to reap a profit of between $100,000 and $638,000 in 2014 by stacking state, and possibly federal, deductions on top of tuition tax credits.”

#3 Education tax credit programs pose significant risks to students

Federal civil rights laws do not pertain to private schools, therefore there is no protection students have from discrimination due to race, religion or sexual orientation. Private schools subsidized by the tuition tax credit can also expel students who are performing below grade level and deny acceptance to English Language Learners or students with disabilities. In Arizona, only 3 percent of special needs students have been granted tax credit scholarships.

There is also no common denominator in determining the overall level of competency in basic subjects from one school to the next.

In some states, there is no oversight of a student’s progress using a state or federal proficiency evaluation and there is rarely a demand for financial transparency by the states of the education tax credit system which can lead to fraud.

The financial support provided by these tax credits might not meet the full tuition fee and therefore many low-income students are not able to attend a private school because the family is not able to pay the difference in tuition.

So far, the courts have turned a blind eye to the system of tax credits even though the money is many times funneled into religious institutions which leads us to #4.

#4 Education tax credit programs divert public money to religious indoctrination

Betsy and Dick DeVos want to spread the word about their religion and have been doing so on a statewide basis.

As I wrote in an article titled Betsy DeVos Pushes Online Learning, the first Michigan charter schools were operated by the DeVoses’ close friend, JC Huigenza, with their support, and were essentially Christian schools, with mandatory prayer meetings. The schools were closed after threats of lawsuits by the ACLU.

The New Yorker covered this religious angle in a story on Betsy Devos, noting the church’s official statement on science“Humanity is created in the image of God; all theorizing that minimizes this fact and all theories of evolution that deny the creative activity of God are rejected.”

Betsy DeVos attended Calvin College, which is owned and operated by the Christian Reformed Church.

Dick DeVos is a proponent of Intelligent Design, the belief that life is so complex that it must have been designed by an “intelligent being”, referring to a Christian god, and pushed to get the religious idea introduced into science classes in Michigan 

Betsy DeVos wants to share her religion and beliefs with all children in this country and what better way to do it than as the Secretary of Education establishing a national tax credit system.

-Dora Taylor

Seattle Teacher’s Response to DeVos Anti-Science Crusade

This article was originally published in The Progressive.


Trump and Devos Ignore Science, but This High School Teacher and His Students Embrace It

The announcement on June 1 by President Donald Trump that he will withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement defies everything we know about the science of climate change. It also left science teachers everywhere grappling with how to present this important subject to their students.

Trump ignores the advice of scientists and justifies his actions with his belief there are “draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.”

United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made matters worse when she joined in Trump’s exercise in science denial.

“President Trump is making good on his promise to put America and American workers first,” she declared, endorsing the U.S. withdrawal from the climate accord.

The President and the person in charge of all of our nation’s public schools are explicitly undermining science. What is a teacher to do?

I asked one of my daughter’s high school science teachers, Adam Croft at Nova High School in the central district of Seattle, what he thought.

This is what he wrote to me:

“Since his June 1, 2017 announcement, my students have not stopped talking about President Trump’s decision to remove the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. All school year, we have been inquiring into the meaning of our planet’s changing climate. . . . We observe shifting conditions in our local forests and waters, study climate data, question guest experts, envision possible sustainable and just futures, and challenge each other to take responsible action.

To them, and to me, the President’s decision is a cruel injustice to those most vulnerable to climate change. My students are angry and frightened and I am humbled by the fact that most of them have only deepened their commitment to do what Trump will not: honestly explore and enact how best to live on Earth.

As a teacher of science, I am responsible for facilitating this inquiry of my students. I work to scaffold their research, experiments, writing, presentations, discussions, community service, and other learning so that all of them can access this inquiry. I continuously assess their progress and give them the feedback necessary to further their investigations. And I join my students in rooting out and dismantling the gross and subtle ways systems of oppression work to disrupt our learning community.”

Croft sees DeVos’s statement supporting the decision to withdraw as “a clear signal that our essential work as educators will not be supported under this administration.”

But Croft’s students give him hope. “Part of the beauty of scientific inquiry is that once you start to engage the world in authentic questioning, each answer elicits more questions.”

The young people he works with don’t need anyone telling them what they can and cannot learn, Croft says. But he hopes all Americans will give serious thought to how to support our students and their schools in an increasingly hostile climate.

-Dora Taylor and Jeff Bryant